Should We Transition to a Four Day Workweek?
The standard 40-hour, five-day workweek has only been in practice since the mid 20th century. For hundreds of years before that, people would put in 12+ hour days six days a week at jobs that required strenuous labor. Now, recent studies suggest that we would greatly benefit from an even shorter workweek.
Recently, a small number of US businesses are beginning to adopt a four-day workweek in an attempt to increase productivity and morale. In the age of ever-increasing competition, businesses are scrambling to gain an edge over competitors, and that often starts with ensuring employees are able to operate at a high level of productivity without burning out.
The practice is being implemented in different ways, with some companies bunching 40 hours into four days, while others are simply cutting an entire day of work, often with no cut in pay. Fifteen percent of companies now offer a four-day workweek of 32 hours or less to at least some employees, according to a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management.
Research into the efficacy of the practice points towards an overall much healthier organization. Employees who participate in a four-day workweek are shown to be more productive, which in turn boosts overall happiness. The traditional 9-5 mentality has been shown to have a negative effect on employees’ energy, drive, and creativity, leading to an overall diminished sense of wellness and happiness about one’s work. A study published in the Social Science and Medical Journal shows that a one-day reduction workweek reduces mental health issues by a substantial 30%.
The practice has also been shown to be better for families allowing employees to achieve a more wholesome work-life balance. Work-life balance is one of the most important metrics in ensuring a happy workforce, and a four-day workweek gives families a better chance to balance the challenging demands of raising a family while working.
One of the biggest challenges that modern businesses face is employee retention. Company loyalty is tumultuous at best these days, and the cost of hiring and training new employees can be a huge drain on businesses. Offering a four-day workweek has been shown to greatly reduce employee turnover, as it makes the company more appealing to prospective and current workers. It can be an effective recruiting practice for smaller companies that struggle to compete with more established businesses by offering this fairly attractive perk.
The four-hour workweek is not without its critics though. Some experts say that while it may be a major boost to overall employee happiness and morale, a four-day workweek will simply not be enough for some companies to compete in highly competitive industries. With the five-day workweek so deeply ingrained in our society, customers often expect to have availability throughout the week, which could have a detrimental effect on a company’s brand or reputation.
Nevertheless, there is still plenty of room for conversation into whether we should transition to a four-day workweek. Despite its potential drawbacks, making this transition could be a much-needed invigoration in the workforce that could lead to greater levels of happiness, creativity, and productivity.